Someone Is Missing
It didn’t seem right. At noon last Sunday, I made my way down to St. Peter’s Square, almost automatically, as I had hundreds of times in the past, subconsciously expecting to see the Holy Father, at the window of his study, greet the thousands standing in the square with me, lead us in the Angelus, and impart his blessing.
But, last Sunday, the windows were shut, and no Pope appeared.
We have no Pope…the Chair of St. Peter is empty…sede vacante. Something…no, someone, is missing in our spiritual family, the Church: our Holy Father.
It didn’t seem right last Friday morning, either. When I came to the part of the Eucharistic Prayer where we have mentioned, “Benedict, our Pope…” for the last eight years, I stammered, because we have no Pope.
No wonder, when the reporter on Sky News asked the Latino young man in London if he thought the next Pope should be from Latin America, he replied, “I don’t care where he’s from, I just want to have a Pope again.”
Or, when that same correspondent asked the woman from Africa on the same block in London if she wanted a black Pontiff, she responded, “I don’t care where he’s from, I just want a Pope.”
Yes: while the life of the Church goes on—the sacraments are celebrated; God’s Word is proclaimed; grace and mercy flow; prayer and acts of charity abound—but, something…no, someone, is missing. We just want to have a Pope again.
As our former Pope Benedict XVI reminded us by resigning, an act of extraordinary humility and courage, it’s really, in the end, not about the Pope at all. It’s about Jesus and His Church. Jesus is the pastor, the shepherd, the source of unity in the Church.
But, the Vicar of Christ on earth is the Pope…and, when he’s not with us, we miss him. Something…no, someone pivotal in Catholic life, is missing.
Over an espresso in a coffee bar here in Rome on Friday morning, I heard a man confessing to the fellow next to him, “You know, I’m sure not the best Catholic, but, as I watched that helicopter leave the Vatican yesterday, carrying Pope Benedict away, I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. And my little boy asked, ‘Why can’t he stay?’”
We are all like that little boy. We don’t like to see a Pope go (unless you write op-ed pieces for some New York newspapers!). We don’t like to lose them, either by death, or, exceptionally, by resignation. Like the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus pleaded with Jesus, “Stay with us!”
But, we let him go, as we end up doing with most people and things in life, however good they are. And we make an act of faith that Jesus meant it when he promised to be with His Church always, not letting even the gates of hell do it in.
We have no Pope. Something…no, someone, is missing in our supernatural family, the Church.
And now we wait for those words, “I announce to you good news: Habemus Papem! We have a Pope!”